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Daphne Corregan
Artist's profile by Françoise de l'Epine.

Daphne Corregan takes pleasure in distracting objects away from their original function by distorting and stretching them to impossible dimensions in order to magnify them and make them playful. Ceramist and sculptor, her forms originate on paper. It is these drawings which will determine the technique she will need to create them.

Born in 1954 in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, Corregan now lives in the south of France. Her time is divided between her studio and her job teaching sculpture and ceramics at the Ecole d'Arts Plastiques in Monaco. Corregan came to France at a young age and began her studies in art at the Beaux Arts in Toulon, Marseilles, and finally in Aix-en-Provence in 1977. Her first contacts with clay took place during her American schooling but her initiation to raku came later while studying ceramics with Jean Biagini in Aix. Jim Romberg's and Paul Soldner's visits were a revelation. "Jim used his slips and glazes like a painter uses his paints," she recalled. The different stages of firing and postfiring reduction, the coordination of gestures and the complicity of the artist with fire fascinated her.

Corregan prefers to use a white raku clay with a talc content because of the soft yet almost metallic patinas she obtains with a strong smoking after firing. She uses one glaze and one engobe, each made up of gerstley borate, kaolin and silica, colored with oxides or stains, following no precise formula, used as such or mixed together depending on the degree of glossiness she might be searching for. She spends a great deal of time painting each piece, following the outlines of her drawings previously incised into the clay when it is still wet. One might speak of it more as coloring rather than glazing. She takes into account the fact that these engravings or incisions will become a rich black after smoking the work and in that way be reinforced and accentuated. "What particularly interests me," says Corregan, "is the transformation the clay surfaces and richness of tones obtained by smoking. The clay takes on a grey or black color and becomes a background for a more pictorial work. Whether I decide to cover I my work with decoration, or simply engrave or fill in my drawings with solid colors, or perhaps superimpose brushstrokes of a different quality of glaze and color, the smoking of the piece following firing tends to bind these different surface treatments to the body of the piece itself and therefore may be considered more as the skin of the work rather than its clothing."

Corregan works more on the representation of the object than on the object itself. She wants to demonstrate that a pot for example, by removing it from its daily context may be just as important as a sculpture or painting. She will flatten it, exaggerate its size or even highlight only one of its details. She uses diverse materials such as clay, metal, glass or bronze. She works in series and in what we might classify into three families: destructured
pots; geometric volumes; and sculpture/objects, often anthropomorphic.

Daphne Corregan lives intensely. In art and day-to-day life, she is impulsive. She enjoys the art of everyday life, and its objects. She is willingly influenced by clay architecture, seen during her trips to the southwest of America and to Africa, by Italian and Egyptian frescoes, by Etruscan tombs, street graffiti, contemporary dance, and by artists she admires, such as Picasso, Miro, Matisse, Tapies, Dejonghe, Penicaud, Twombly, Viallat and many others. The freedom and whimsy of Picasso's ceramics have always attracted and
amused her. For the decoration of some of her pitchers, the idea of
collage or pattern painting may be used but she wants the decoration to become a part of the piece and not too strong as to distract the eye. Their forms are relatively simple. Incisions, sorts of scarifications delimit the zones where the clay will be left alone or covered with glaze or slips; other pieces will be simply smoked, and here, the miracle always renewed by flame will, on Corregan's pitchers, bring to our imagination evocations of birds or animals. Their decoration is two-sided; they often are composed of two slabs joined together at the sides and some almost take on an air of a penguin or a striped rabbit, while others have strange beaks and ears. Is this a distant memory of Kachina dolls or Oceanic sculptures?

Affected by the atrocities that have occurred in the past few years, in particular in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, Corregan felt the need to create figurative sculptures. Her first figures had arms that actually were arms, then they became victims, marked by scars, but always remained standing. Her wheeled chariots might symbolize humanity forced to exodus, and the 'limbs' as if set in a gangue, a little like those of Giacometti, are a way, for Corregan, of reacting to land mines. For her recent vases, measuring up to 110 cm tall, Corregan had the idea of making them with bases. These bases may take the shape of a shelf-forming body with the vase or pitcher itself
and hung on a wall, or a pedestal from where the vase will emerge.

Some of these vases were designed to carry flowers, the flowers acting as a prolongation of the vase itself and thus completing its form. This series is the continuation of her work on the mold and imprint but is also reminiscent of an earlier series on the mortar and pestle begun in 1994-96 after her first trip to Burkina Faso. Corregan is constantly leading us to new directions. This time, she is working on dresses, full-length strapped dresses, some with apertures, another with a smocked waist. They stand alone. The heavily-smoked clay gives them sumptuous hues of blacks and grays: "There is such an enormous variety of blacks... matt blacks, silent, that absorb light... more metallic ones, full of reflections and nocturnal connotations, slightly sophisticated and mischievous." Here and there some inlaid porcelain or a touch of glaze accentuates the richness of hues. With these dresses (145 cm/high) she excels in what is her approach: the desire to see her clay become alive, to become just as vibrant as when it was still full of water, and to catch the light in the same manner as when she modeled her pieces. In order to achieve this she will not cover the clay with a layer of glaze nor disrupt it with a strong texture: "I can't imagine covering this work with another skin other than the clay itself or in any case with only a little. And I believe that it is precisely this 'little' that attracted me to raku."

Parallel to these dresses she is also working on enormous cylinders, a continuation of her research on inside/outside also illustrated by her heads. She plans on decorating the 'inside' with a repetitive design and those subtle matt glazes of hers, leaving the outside to be only blackened by smoke. Daphne Corregan starts with objects from everyday life whose beauty comes from the forms dictated by the needs of the human body and not by an intellectual research, preconceived. Corregan's originality is to penetrate into the interior of the given object in order to move around it, creating a new dynamic, and to transform it through drawing into something more playful. One is struck by her great freedom in the way of expressing forms. It radiates energy, pleasure and humor. What tends to unify this work is without a doubt the warm and sensual way she has of drawing and painting. Miro said that "a work should fertilize the imagination". It is this spirit that Corregan's open forms call out to us.

Daphne's work can be seen at the Galerie Marianne Brand in Carouge, Switzerland, until 18 June 2004. On the 13 June, Daphne and her husband Gilles Suffren will host an 'artists dialogue' at the ceramics studios of Carouge/Fondation Bruckner.

Françoise de l'Epine is a writer on the arts, living in Paris. Article courtesy Daphen Corregan. ©

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